Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What I'm Cooking Wednesday

I usually post what I'm reading or what I just finished reading on Wednesdays, but I haven't had time to do much reading lately.  I did spend Sunday making bread.  It was a recipe from my sister that I changed up a bit and I have to say it came out pretty good so I thought I'd share it here.

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf
 (Makes 2 loaves)

7 to 7 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups milk (I used 1 % milk)
1/2 cup Crisco
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For Icing
1 cup sifted Confectioners' sugar  (also known as powdered sugar)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Milk

In a large mixing bowl combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour and yeast. Set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, the Crisco, and salt.  Heat it until warm (115 to 120 degrees), stirring constantly to melt the Crisco. Add to the flour mixture.  Add eggs. Beat at low speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Beat 3 additional minutes at high speed.  Stir in enough of the remaining flour by hand to make a moderately soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 or so minutes).  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about an hour). 

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Roll each half into a 15 x 7 inch rectangle. Brush the entire surface with water. Combine the 1/2 cup sugar and ground cinnamon.  Spread half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture on each rectangle. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll - beginning at the 7 inch end. Seal the edge and ends. Place each loaf seal side down in a greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till almost double in size (about 35 to 40 minutes).  Bake at 375 degrees until done - about 35 to 40 minutes.  (If the crust browns too quickly before the bread is done, cover with foil the last 15 minutes or so.)  Remove the bread from the pans and cool on a wire rack.  Drizzle with Icing (directions below)

For Icing
Combine the Confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to make a drizzling consistency. (I used 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk).  Cool the bread slightly before icing or it just runs off.  Using a spoon, drizzle the icing back and forth across the loaf.  You can also add chopped nuts to the top of the loaf before the icing dries.

I hope you enjoy it.  It tastes wonderful toasted with a little butter too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Goals – Helpful or Hurtful?



When I first starting writing, I set the most unbelievable goals for myself though I thought they would be achieved with ease.  One of them was that I would write 10 pages of new material a day, 7 days a week all while holding down a full time job, long standing commitments 2 nights a week, and another long standing commitment from 8:30am to 3:00pm on Saturdays, and keeping the majority of my Sundays for family time.  I don’t think I ever wrote 10 pages in one day during that time, or wrote 7 days a week.  As each week passed that I didn’t meet that goal, I became more and more depressed.  I questioned my desire to be a published author.  If I wanted it so badly, then I should be able to meet that goal right?  Wrong. 

A very wise friend and fellow writer pointed out that it wasn’t that I wasn’t committed to getting published, I just had too much on my plate to enable me to devote that much time to my writing.  She suggested that I not set goals or to focus on smaller goals that would fit around my scheduled commitments.  

I sat down and looked at my schedule.  I decided I needed the time to devote to my writing so I gave 3 months notice to the proper people on those long term commitments that at the end of the 3 months, I would no longer be able to do them.  During that time I tried to write whenever I could but I missed the structure goal setting gave me.

I’ve come a long way since then.  I still like to set goals because they keep me on track and help me stay focused.  I set yearly goals, quarterly goals, and weekly goals.  But one thing that has changed is now-a-days my goals are very fluid.  For example, one goal is to write 20 to 25 pages a week.  By not nailing down a set page count per day, I give myself room in my schedule if something pops up and I can’t write on a certain day.

I also set goals in my non-writing life for things I want to accomplish by a set time or date though for some reason it doesn’t work when it comes to dieting.  I wonder what that says about me…probably that my weakness for ice cream is greater than my desire to lose those unwanted pounds.  LOL.

Do you set any type of goals?  Do you find them helpful?  If you don’t set goals, why not?

Friday, October 19, 2012

What I know for sure...

While this has been a really long week at the day job and I'm so very glad it's finally Friday, at the same time I wish I had a few more days left to the week.

I have a project that must be completed by 10/29 and I feel like it will take a miracle to meet that deadline.  Because it's a federal deadline, there's no way to push the end date out. I only have next week to get the data entered, calculated, and correlated before the forms need to be completed and submitted on the 29th.  Which wouldn't be a problem if I didn't feel like I have at least two weeks worth of data to enter etc. 

The other reason I wish there were a couple of more days is that my writing this week has been all but non-existent.  I would like to have gotten more done than I have but...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I just finished Kitty Steals The Show by Carrie Vaughn.  I haven't started a new book yet.  I've been trying to catch up on magazines that I haven't had a chance to read.  Mind you these magazines run the gamut from entertainment like People Magazine to heath issues like Heath Magazine to writing like the RWR and Writer's Digest.

I'm also two issues behind in RT magazine.  While I love this magazine and look forward to leafing through it, I usually put it off until I have a few hours free because I write down all the books listed in the magazine that I want to read and/or buy as I'm reading the magazine.

How about you, what magazines do you look forward to reading?

Friday, October 12, 2012

This I know for sure...

Training a new person at the day job makes me more tired at the end of the day than doing the old duties myself.  I think it's a combination of making sure I'm telling the new person everything they need to know, trying to come up with various scenarios so they'll know how to handle those situations, and sitting beside them watching them work.

I do know that sitting with someone and watching them as they navigate the software systems and process the various types of paperwork makes the day seem so much longer than it is.  I would much rather be busy than watch over someone while they work.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Please Welcome My Guest...

Please welcome my guest, Paula Martin.  

Paula had some early publishing success in her twenties with short stories and four contemporary romance novels, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching. and has had three romance novels published, ‘His Leading Lady’ in June 2011, ‘Fragrance of Violets in February 2012’ and ‘Changing the Future’ in May 2012. Another novel will be published in November 2012 and she is currently working on two more romances.  She lives near Manchester in North-West England, and has two daughters and two grandsons. Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places and has travelled extensively in Britain, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her favourite places are the English Lake District and Ireland. She’s also interested in musical theatre and tracing her family history.  

Where do you get your ideas?

This is a question I’m often asked, and I invariably have to say, “I’m not sure.” For most of my novels, I start with a vague idea about one character, or sometimes two people, and my mind asks ‘What if …?’ The story then develops from there.

I can’t usually pinpoint the moment when a seed plants itself in my mind, but in the case of my November release, ‘Her Only Option’ I can tell you exactly when it was conceived.

On the afternoon of Thursday 7th October 2010, I was on the sundeck of a Nile cruise ship. It was moored at Aswan, after sailing upstream from Luxor, where we’d visited the Valley of the Kings. There are so many cruise ships that they have to be moored four abreast and, as they’re built to roughly the same design, their sundecks are level.

So I’m lying on my sunbed and I start to wonder if it would be possible to vault over the rails and the 3 or 4 foot gap from one cruise ship to another. Not that I’d any intention of trying it, of course. My days of vaulting anywhere are well and truly over! That evening, when we were on the sundeck again, after a visit to the bazaar in Aswan, I asked one of the friends we’d made on the cruise. He wandered across to the rail, studied the distance for a moment, and said, “Well, I wouldn’t try it now, but I could have done it easily when I was in my twenties or thirties.”

So it was possible! Until that afternoon, I’d hadn’t even thought about writing a novel set in Egypt but now my mind started working overtime. Within a short time, I’d dismissed the idea of my hero and heroine being on separate cruises because when the cruise ended, they’d have to go back home, and now I knew I wanted to keep them in Egypt. It didn’t take me long to decide that my heroine could be a cruise ship tour guide.

And what about the hero? I’d loved our visit to the Valley of the Kings earlier that week. It was the culmination of a long-held dream and more than exceeded my expectations, especially when we actually stood in Tutankhamen’s tomb. It was fairly easy, therefore, to decide that my hero could be an archaeologist, working in one of the tombs in the valley.

Of course, that was only the beginning, and I still had a long way to go before the novel finally came together. It went off in a different direction than I’d originally imagined and, in fact, the hero never did that leap over the rails. He did, however, first see the heroine lying on the sunbed of the neighbouring cruise ship.

Blurb:   Neve Dalton loves her job as a tour guide on a River Nile cruise ship as much as she values her independence. She isn’t ready to settle down with her Egyptian boyfriend, despite his repeated proposals and his father’s desire to see him married.

Nor is she ready to meet Ross McAllister, a compelling and fascinating archaeologist. She struggles against her growing attraction to him until she can no longer ignore what her heart is telling her. This is the man who sets her soul on fire.
 
When she starts receiving cryptic messages, and Ross’s work in the famous Valley of the Kings is threatened, Neve has to make a heart-breaking and life-changing decision which she feels is her only option. 

Can they discover whose enmity is forcing them apart before it’s too late?

Excerpt:  (from the scene where they meet at a party and he tells her about the first time he saw her.)

“Want some kofta?” He ladled the spicy lamb onto both their plates before moving on to the stainless steel chafer containing rice. “You and Joanne exchange ships next week; she’s on the Nadia and you’re on the Amirah. It’s a good thing I found out, otherwise I’d have had to practise vaulting over the rails between the sundecks.”

“Easier to go down to the lobby where they have the gangplanks between the ships.”

“Yeah, but not half as much fun. I even considered doing it last week when I first met you.”

He spooned rice on to her plate until she put out her hand to stop him. A vision of him vaulting the four-foot gap between the rails of the sundecks came into her mind and she gave a quick chuckle. “Last Monday I’d probably have been willing you to drop down into the gap.”

“Ouch! That bad, was it?”

She smirked. “The first impression was not good, no.”

Even as she said it, she thought of the impact his masculine body had on her when he’d stood at the rails of the Amirah. Yes, she’d been attracted, but had dismissed him as a cruise ship Casanova. Since then, what had happened? It wasn’t simply because he was the renowned archaeologist that her opinion had changed.

It was because she’d enjoyed their conversation about Ancient Egypt when they were in Senhotep’s tomb. She’d felt safe with him even when the lights failed. She’d melted at his kiss. Yes, admit it, Neve, you did. She’d been unable to stop thinking about him during the sail up to Aswan, and was thrilled when he appeared at Abu Simbel. Their felucca sail had been a natural culmination to what had been happening to her all week.

She’d started to fall in love with him. 

You can find all of Paula's books on Amazon at:
http://www.amazon.com/Paula-Martin/e/B005BRF9AI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1   

She loves to hear from readers and can be contacted through her website or blogs.  
Group Blog (with 3 other writers): http://heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com 

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's Hard to Say Goodbye

I recently learned my aunt has been moved into hospice care.  She's only about 68 or 69. (I'm not exactly sure of her age.) She has been battling cancer for approximately six years and unfortunately, the cancer will win.  While I realize many people younger than she is have succumbed or will succumb to this disease, it seems much to soon to lose her.

When my uncle called to give us the news, I alternated between wanting to go and see her and not wanting to go and see her.  I didn't want my last memory of her to be that of a frail woman ravaged the effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and the cancer itself. 

I lost my grandmother when I was 15 and when I think of her, the first image of her that pops into my mind is that of her lying in her casket.  I didn't want the same type of memory of my aunt - to have the first image of her to be of her sick and dying.  I wanted to have that last memory of her to be one of the fun times I had at her home when I was a kid, or seeing her at a family reunion, or her sitting at our dining room table, her crochet hook flashing as she talked and drank coffee with my mom, anything other than it to be the one of her as she is now.

My mom, my sister, and me went and saw her Friday night.  We laughed and talked and had a wonderful time. We didn't stay long - a little more than an hour or so because we were worried about tiring her out especially since she insisted on sitting up in her bed while we were there. 

Am I glad I went? Definitely.  Am I still worried that my first memory of her will be of her as she is now?  A little but I think that if I hadn't gone to see her, the regret of not going would have weighed more heavily on me than that memory.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This week I'm trying to read three books at the same time. I'm just finishing up a cozy mystery titled Last Wool and Testament by Molly MacRae. I'm in the middle of the historical romance titled The Taming of a Scottish Princess by Karen Hawkins.  Finally, I'm just starting the paranormal/fantasy novel titled Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn.

All of them are library books and are due at the end of the week.  I hope I can finish the last two in time.